Horror and exploitation movies from the non-CGI era reviewed semi-weekly
Saturday, November 19, 2016
#244: Biohazard (Fred Olen Ray, 1985)
In the wake of my country's suicidal decision to elect a fascist monster, Europe's move toward fascism, Brexit, and the horrors of what's to come, it seems completely ridiculous to write about a goofy monster B-movie. I feared the intertwined demons of global predatory capitalism and bigoted scapegoating would eventually cause something this cataclysmic, but a big part of me is still in shock, appalled by and embarrassed for and terrified of the direction western civilization is heading. A lot of good people are going to be hurt terribly by what's going to happen, and we all have to find our own ways of pitching in to stop it. We've also got to keep living our lives, finding spaces to celebrate what's good, having fun, staying sane. This is also important. In that spirit, and in one of the most awkward transitional sentences I've ever written, here's a little something about Fred Olen Ray's Biohazard.
Much like our country's response to the Trump candidacy, Biohazard is about a problem that is not taken seriously until it starts destroying people. Deep in the California desert, a scientist is working on something big, and the Army and Congress are taking notice. Two senators, an Army bigwig, and some career military types head to the desert to check out the vague, weird experiments Dr. Williams (Art Payton) is conducting in his desert lab with psychic Lisa Martyn (Angelique Pettyjohn). In a hilariously awkward scene, Dr. Williams gives a spiel about how he's using the psychic's powers in tandem with his science machines to grab actual objects from other dimensions and bring them to this dimension using science. Then he and Lisa actually do it.
The government and military dudes, including Hollywood veteran Aldo Ray as General Randolph, decide the mysterious container taken from another dimension belongs to the military. They order underlings Mitchell Carter (William Fair) and Roger (Richard Hench) to load up the weird container and follow the big shots back to base. Driving the big shots is gum-chomping, macho dickhead Reiger (David O'Hara), who has a long-standing feud with Mitchell dating back to Vietnam (though both guys seem too young to have seen any action there). Before they make it very far, a diminutive but deadly alien jumps out of the container and shreds Roger's face, making a hasty getaway immediately thereafter. The alien looks like a four-foot-tall cross between a Power Ranger and a beetle and is played by the director's son, who was then five, six, or seven years old, depending on which source you read.
The rest of the film concerns Mitchell and Lisa's attempts to find and kill the alien, and the alien's path of destruction through a nearby desert town. There are lots of nods to Alien, some pretty convincing makeup effects, some pretty terrible non-makeup effects, hilariously awful dialogue, gratuitous nudity, the destruction of an E.T. poster, hobos waxing rhapsodic about cheap 1983 wine, and an abruptly hysterical twist ending followed by a blooper reel.
Fred Olen Ray, who I call the "Fassbinder of schlock," has 148 directing credits to his name and shows no signs of slowing down or learning how to make professional product, and for that, I salute him. His films are not very good, but they are a great deal of fun. This is Olen Ray's fourth appearance on this site, and I encourage his fans to check out my previous reviews of The Alien Dead, Alienator, and Armed Response. Ray's child Christopher, who played the alien, has followed in his father's footsteps as a prolific director and producer of B-movies, with 18 credits as director since 2008. His notable titles include Reptisaurus, Megaconda, Mega-Shark vs. Crocosaurus, and They Want Dick Dickster. I wonder what Thanksgiving is like at the Olen Rays.
Dr. Mystery, aka Robot X, aka Raul "Sous Chef" Mendoza, aka Josh Krauter was killed in a brawl in a Pizza Hut parking lot after expressing his disappointment with the "Dippin' Strips" pizza. His skeleton was saved and inserted into an apesuit-wearing robot powered by an electrical current emanating from the still-beating heart of deceased actor Zero Mostel. He is also a limited liability company and writes the weekly advice column, "Pull Your Head Outta Your Ass," for the Vermont Luthiers Annual Newsletter.